International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN) for coastal zone management

In recent years significant momentum has occurred in the development of Internet resources for decision makers, scientists and the general public who are interested in the coast. A key aspect of this trend has been the development of coastal web atlases (CWA), based on web enabled geographic information systems (GIS).

A CWA has been defined by the ICAN (International Coastal Atlas Network) community as: a collection of digital maps and datasets with supplementary tables, illustrations and information that systematically illustrate the coast, oftentimes with cartographic and decision support tools, all of which are accessible via the Internet.

The application scope of CWAs is broad. Driving factors for CWA development include the need for:

• Better planning to cater for increased population pressures in the coastal zone (e.g. the UN estimate that by 2020 75% of the world’s population will be living within 60 km of the coastal zone (United Nations, 1992; Shi and Singh, 2003).
• Decision support systems in relation to climate change scenarios in vulnerable coastal regions.
• Information to facilitate assessments of risk to natural hazards (including tsunamis and floods).
• Access to data and maps to support marine spatial planning (MSP) as a tool for better coastal and marine area management.
• Maps of jurisdictional boundaries for maritime territories in support of claims related to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has a deadline for submissions of 2013.
• More efficient and effective coastal and marine area governance including access to relevant data and information.
• Information on resource availability and exploitation including habitat and species information, as well as ecological and community resilience.

The strategic aim of ICAN is to share experiences and to find common solutions to CWA development whilst ensuring maximum relevance and added value for the end users. In 2007, the ICAN community selected the topic of coastal erosion as the main focus of a project to demonstrate semantic interoperability among selected coastal web atlas (e.g. Figure ‎1 2). However, it is recognised that there are many more topics that coastal web atlas can address. For the coastal erosion use case example, the following user roles were targeted (however other roles do exist):

Coastal Manager/Planner (uses an inventory to take regulatory action; helps form policy guidelines as potential statutes or regulatory rules)
Private Property Owner (seeks insight about adverse impacts to a property)
Emergency Responders (need information about past, present, or future hazardous events)
Scientist (investigates research questions for knowledge building, relevant for policy implications and decision support action)
Local CWA administrator (supports other users with getting access to data, perhaps from own system or other systems)

(Go to pilot in the EUMIS portal)

CWAs contain a diverse range of dataset products. For example, the 2007 ICAN coastal erosion use case listed several key datasets, which include:

• Coastal access and recreation
• Coastal armouring
• Cadastral datasets with assessor attribution
• Geology
• Land use and zoning
• Current shoreline position
• Historic shoreline positions
• Permit tracking systems and a dynamic link to cadastral data
• Aerial imagery
• Streams
• Beaches
• Bluff and dune fields
• Regulatory jurisdictions
• Community development
• Geomorphology profiles
• Erosion Risk study results – Risk Zones or Lines
• Topography
• Wave climate data
• Shallow water bathymetry
• Transportation networks
• Public utilities
• Public lands

While CWAs contain a diverse range of datasets, the inclusion of both real-time and historical data products from the operational oceanography and remote sensing communities has been more limited, often because such data has been difficult to access in terms of both data policy and data interoperability. This interoperability issue will be addressed by NETMAR. In addition, the ability to generate new value-added data products on the fly will be demonstrated by NETMAR.
Figure: Semantic interoperability demonstration between coastal web atlas catalogues ( Semantic interoperability demonstration between coastal web atlas catalogues (